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CHICAGO (AP) - Nearly 250 physicians are calling on Illinois lawmakers to legalize the use of marijuana for patients with serious illnesses.

Three physicians spoke during a news conference Tuesday. They say marijuana can be a safer and more effective treatment than narcotics for patients with diseases such as cancer and HIV.

The Illinois House is expected to vote Wednesday on a bill that would create a medical marijuana pilot program. It would allow physicians who have an existing relationship with a patient to prescribe marijuana for certain conditions. Patients would be limited to buying 2.5 ounces at a time from dispensaries regulated by the state.

Julie Falco of Chicago uses marijuana to treat multiple sclerosis symptoms. Falco says she and other patients shouldn't be considered criminals for trying to ease their suffering.

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